Hard Times by Brandon Haynes


Hard Times
By Brandon Haynes

Growing up in hard times 
i’m always stuck with a struggle
Every since i can remember
i’ve been getting in trouble
If it wasn’t skipping school
or running from them boys in blue
then i was beating up the dudes
that i sold the dope too
Thats not a lifestyle that i choose to go through.
Trying to make money on the streets
while other hustlers compete
they wanna run us off the block
but theres no way we will retreat
but thats just everyday street life
now pass the peace pipe
So i can just blaze
while i pray for better days
& try to think of clever ways
that i can make the chedder stay
This life is just not right
i’m in debt
& i cant stop smoking on these damn cigarettes
whats happened in the past has got me livin with regrets
but everybody has hard times so try not stress
Lord, i must confess im doing my best to proceed
but the devil will possess
& he’s flexing on me
hes got me stuck
stuck between a rock and hard place
so i’m slanging this cocaine
so i can come up like scareface
& it makes my heart ache
that i stay stuck in this dark space
harsh days got me feeling like its time to part ways

I saw an article yesterday on Steve’s “All Natural & More” blog talking about casual gay prostitution.  The article was originally in Fusion’s online magazine.  In the article, Taryn Hillin writes about “The rise of the part-time gay prostitute.”  The article inspired me to look for a poem about hustlers, and I found the one above, “Hard Times” by Brandon Haynes, which seemed to fit well with this article. (I left the punctuation and capitalization just as it was, as much as it pained me to want to edit it.)  The article itself can be found at http://fusion.net/story/107376/part-time-male-gay-sex-work/ or by clicking the link above to Steve’s blog.  Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Over the past few years, more gay men have begun to sell sex on the side like it’s no big deal—and for these men, it’s not. The rise, according to researchers, can be traced to the explosion of social networking sites combined with a less-than-stable job market—along with increasingly permissive cultural views toward casual sex. 

“Previously, men had to go to an outdoor venue, work for an agency, or advertise in the back pages of magazines and phone books to sell sex, now they can do it right from their phone,” said Kevin Walby, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg and author of Touching Encounters: Sex, Work, and Male-for-Male Internet Escorting.


While casual sex workers’ primary motivation is earning extra cash, many also see the work as having larger value. They see it as a form of care work, akin to being a therapist or masseuse. 

“The way that these guys approach what they do is not strictly commercial. They do feel like they’re helping people,” Walby told Fusion. “Whether it’s psychological or physical, they talk about their work like occupational therapy or nursing.” 

Several men we spoke with said much of the work involves touching, hugging, and baths. Most of the clients don’t have time for a relationship, don’t have a lot of options in the love department for physical reasons (weight, age, disability), or simply haven’t come out yet—making open intimacy difficult for them. 

With this in mind, Walby said society’s perception of sex work as shameful is dated. “It’s bizarre that we don’t include anything sexual in approaches to care or therapy,” he said—“that we divorce sexual touching from the notion of healing and caring.” 

Numerous studies have indeed shown the health benefits of intimacy and cuddling. For men who are unable to get it in their “real lives” and not bothered by the transactional nature of the encounter, paying a couple hundred dollars for sex or intimate behavior can help fill a painful void. 


Men’s sex work does, of course, come with risks, but it tends to be safer than women’s sex work. “The risk profile for women and transgender workers is more complicated,” said Walby. For example, it’s pretty standard that female escorts will visit clients with bodyguards—active female prostitutes are 18 times more likely to be murdered than the general population. 

Walby, who has also researched female sex workers, said that while many women feel empowered by their work, they also tend to be more afraid of potential repercussions. “In my research the women were definitely more worried about violence and more worried about stigmatization—if word got out, they seemed to feel it would be more damaging for their lives than the men did.” 


While these casual sex workers aren’t shouting about their work from the rooftops, the men we spoke with said they aren’t burdened by feelings of worry, guilt, or shame. True, they aren’t telling their mothers (too personal) or bosses (for fear of discrimination or other repercussions), but they’re open about the work with close friends. 

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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